Reviews | Do we have the Supreme Court we deserve?

The judges’ responses to arguments this month suggested that a majority would soon force Maine, against the will of its legislature, to ...


The judges’ responses to arguments this month suggested that a majority would soon force Maine, against the will of its legislature, to subsidize the tuition fees of parents living in school districts without high schools who send their children to parish schools. About half of the state’s school districts are too small to support a high school. To meet the state’s constitutional guarantee of free K-12 education, the state pays tuition in private schools but excludes those that offer explicitly sectarian education. When a federal appeals court, in upholding the exclusion, saw a principled distinction, Conservative judges saw only anti-religious discrimination.

As the tribunal goes its current course, will there be some sort of calculation? I’m not smart enough to know the answer, but a premonitory test that Russell Wheeler of the Brookings Institution published in 2019 suggests that political scientists’ long-held view of the role of the Supreme Court in American politics will be profoundly disrupted. Mr. Wheeler, Brookings’ longtime expert on federal courts, recalled a famous 1957 article in which Yale political scientist Robert Dahl observed that because of regular presidential appointments, “the dominant political views within Courts are never long at odds with the political views prevailing among the legislative majorities of the United States.

It was a heartwarming observation that anchored the court’s legitimacy in democratic theory. Mr Dahl, who died in 2014 at the age of 98, may have chosen not to imagine a president with the muscle, the will and the ability to place young supporters on the pitch – in other words, helped by the donation. life of the Constitution, to capture the court for the next generation and freeze in place a legacy the American people never chose.

Is this the Supreme Court we deserve? It’s not.

***

End of 2009David Shipley, the editor of what was then called the Op-Ed page, invited me to write an opinion column every two weeks focused on the Supreme Court. He left The Times for Bloomberg News the following year, and we never met, but I remain indebted to him. Writing about 26 columns per year for 12 years has given me not only a platform but a discipline, a privileged and rare second act in journalism. I felt a deep connection not only with my subject, but also with my readers and, of course, with the newspaper where I started, fresh out of college, as an intern for political columnist James Reston. .

This is the last of my usual chronicles, but not the last time my voice will appear here. I will risk an opinion from time to time. How could I not?

In 1998, I was lucky enough to win a Pulitzer Prize. I was the editor’s dinner partner at the celebratory dinner he hosted for The Times winners that year. In the middle of the meal, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. asked me what my long-term goal was at the newspaper, where I had then worked for 30 years.

“I would like to write a column,” I replied.

The editor looked at me with a surprised expression. “A column!” he apologized. “What would you write about? “

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